Opponents of smoking Atlantic City casino criticize the industry

Published on: September 2, 2022, 12:38 p.m.

Last updated: September 2, 2022, 12:54 p.m.

Atlantic City casino workers who want to end indoor smoking say banning tobacco on the nine gaming floors would better encourage responsible gambling.

Atlantic city casino smoking in new jersey
A gambler at the Ocean Casino Resort in Atlantic City on Feb. 10, 2022. Opponents of smoking at the Atlantic City casino say making gaming areas smoke-free would encourage more responsible gambling. (Picture: A?)

Casino Employees Against the Effects of Smoking (CEASE) is a growing coalition of casino workers in Atlantic City. They say state lawmakers and casinos should value personal health and well-being over profits. CEASE members argue that they deserve the same clean indoor air jobs as most other employees.

New Jersey’s Smoke-Free Air Act of 2006 allows Atlantic City casinos to set aside up to 25 percent of their gaming space for indoor smoking.

The American Gaming Association (AGA) kicked off its first Responsible Gaming Education Month yesterday with the release of the lobby group’s latest edition of its “Guide to Responsible Gaming Statutes and Regulations.” CEASE argues that anti-smoking policies in Atlantic City would help many problem gamblers quit during losing streaks. The required smoke breaks, CEASE believes, would temporarily suspend their game and may cause some to decide to leave.

Unfortunately, we often see too many guests gambling money they don’t have, caught in gambling cycles. This is especially true for guests who are allowed to smoke continuously while playing.” said Nicole Vitola, co-leader of CEASE.

“We know that if smokers have to take breaks and go outside, they would be much better off, just like casino workers and table game dealers who are forced to breathe in secondhand smoke,” Vitola added.

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A cornerstone of responsible gambling is keeping gambling fun. Experts say gambling should never be seen as a way to make money, but simply as a form of entertainment, not unlike buying a concert or movie ticket.

Chasing losses is something that many gamblers do and something that any responsible gaming professional tries to discourage. Requiring a smoker to go outside when the craving strikes, CEASE says, would lead to more relaxation periods for players chasing losses. But it could also help those on winning streaks opt to quit while they’re ahead.

“As casino employees, we are regularly trained on industry best practices and serve as the first point of contact to promote responsible gaming,” Vitola explained.

“The reality is that the industry can and should do more to put action behind their words this month about how seriously they take this issue. It is completely hypocritical for the industry to take credit for promoting responsible gaming while clinging to outdated smoking policies that trap guests for long periods of gambling and have a significant impact on the health and well-being of their entire workforce.” concluded Vitola.

The industry response

Atlantic City’s casino industry, represented in the capital city of Trenton by the Casino Association of New Jersey (CANJ), remains opposed to the indoor smoking ban. The casinos say banning cigarettes would put the properties at a competitive disadvantage against casinos in nearby Philadelphia, where indoor smoking remains allowed in designated areas.

CANJ believes that a smoking ban would cut gambling revenues by up to 25% and lead to the loss of more than 2,500 jobs.

Casinos were dealt a bad hand earlier this week after New Jersey Superior Court Judge Michael Blee threw out the amended property tax agreement with the state. That would have saved the nine properties $55 million this year alone. Blee ruled that the state wrongly gave preferential tax treatment to casinos.

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